By Debra Walsh of The Human Capital Connection

The greatest leaders in history are the ones who had the respect of their teams. Their respect was earned not just given freely. Although a leader is given authority by virtue of their position, their position does not guarantee respect. Their actions and behaviors earn the respect.

One of the most basic ways to gain the respect of those which you have authority is to be an example. Whatever you preach, be certain that you are living it. Leadership is not about issuing orders. It is about making decisions that are to the benefit of the organization. Sometimes these decisions come in conflict with the team. How these challenges are surmounted is partially contingent upon the respect the leader has earned from their team.

It seems that a lot of people in authority operate with the attitude of do as I say, not as I do. That attitude is guaranteed to instill resentment among those they lead. They begin to question why they should do something that their leader will not. There is truth in this. How can you expect someone else to do what you are not willing to do yourself? Unfortunately, it is often the rule and not the exception.

The image of the battlefield offers wonderful examples. Picture a general on horseback telling the troops to charge while hanging safely in the rear. Compare this with the same general in front of his troops shouting “Charge!” and rushing forward towards the enemy. Clearly, the second is an example of a leader willing to do what he asks of others.

Leading through your actions is one effective way to gain the respect of your staff. Another, is to exemplify the characteristics that the organization is promoting. If you are seeking honesty, a willingness to work, and intelligence, it is best to have these traits yourself. People are more apt to stay and work late if their manager is working along side them. Similarly, if a leader is willing to get their hands dirty, the team knows their leader is not looking down at them. Businesses make the lines of command clear. A manager who is a working part of the team will have the respect of those personnel.

Another way to gain respect is to keep the lines of distinction clear. Too often, managers become friends with those whom they are leading. This creates the situation where a mixture of emotions can come into play. Leading involves the making of decisions. Unfortunately, it is impossible to keep everyone in an organization happy. There will be some who feel that a particular choice negatively affects them. In these instances, if there is a friendship between the leader and team member(s), some will take it personally. In a healthy team environment, its members will realize that their leaders decisions are based upon what is best for the company without regard to personal likes.

The example a leader sets is the one that will filter through their entire team. In the era of rapid change, one of the qualities needed is the ability to learn. When people work leaders who fall behind in terms of knowledge and expertise, their teams respect quickly diminishes. I personally experienced a situation where I worked for someone who had no true understanding of our business. Therefore, he wasn’t able to coach and mentor his team members and was unable to provide much needed support. Although he had the authority that came with the position, he never gained the respect of his team.

People watch what their leaders are doing. Social media and the news are filled with people in positions of power who are caught behaving in an embarrassing manner. These leaders thought no one was watching. Someone is always watching. The same holds true within any organization. Like children, employees take notice immediately when their leaders words and actions split. Effective leaders are those who are most concerned about “walking the walk”.

Although it is difficult for a leader to consistently emulate all that is expected from their team, it is the most crucial.

Do you want to want to become a more effective leader and build stronger, more productive teams? Contact us at The Human Capital Connection and let us help you create a culture of success and collaborative relationships!


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